CARDS, STANFORD HOOK UP FRIDAY NIGHT IN LEXINGTON
When we speak of knowing the trees in today's headline, it's not an ecological look at those tall conifers and deciduous objects that grace our front lawns and forests. Not even a philosophical meandering into our understanding and embracing these leaf-bearers and droppers that can make our sinuses swell in the spring and break our backs in the fall when they bloom, prosper and finally shed their cover.
We look at Stanford. The Cardinal without an "s". AKA the Trees. Coeds and PHD's traverse a campus, an area known as the Farm...derived from the days when horses rather than students roamed the property of campus founders and former farm owners Leland and Jane Stanford. Hey, I guess it might have been a refuse dump or hog-slaughter operation...so the farm fits just fine. Stanford, one of those academic schools.
So, why a tree on the sidelines? A resting place for the Cardinal? Nope, but good guess. The tree is "a rich and vivid metaphor for the very pulse of life". You see, there is no official mascot at Stanford. The tree is a member of the pep band. A representative of "El Palo Alto" the redwood tree which is the logo of the city of Palo Alto -- where Stanford University is located.
All this being of whatever interest it may be to you, dear reader...of course, tells you nothing about the Stanford women's basketball squad...who Louisville will try and trim on Friday night in Rupp Arena for Sweet Sixteen action. It's the second time these two have been scheduled to face...Stanford was to be the Cards opponent in the pre-WNIT in Columbus to start off the season, but scheduling requirement and a flight back to campus so students wouldn't miss classes necessitated that the Trees play Connecticut instead of Louisville and the Cards ended up facing home-standing Ohio State in the second contest of the afternoon...while Stanford flew westbound over trees to return to campus. They did get a game in against the Buckeyes two days before the pre-WNIT Showdown and lost to Kelsey Mitchell and crew by 19.
The pre WNIT game was a 25 point win for Geno's dogs over Tara VanDerveer's Cardinal. Stanford also got a "pickup" game with Baylor three weeks later in the season when an opponent backed out and fell to the Mulkey Bears in Waco by 24. It was a rough beginning 1/3rd of the season for the Farm dwellers....6-6 at one point and people were wondering what was going on with the usuallly-feared bully of the PAC 12. Ohio State seemed to have their number, beating them again...this time in Las Vegas 15 days after the first meeting... by eight points in overtime.
Losses to Western Illinois and Tennessee, both in Palo Alto, seemed to indicate this wasn't going to be a productive growing season for wins down on the farm for Tara's team. They did recover, though.
Senior guard Brittany McPhee elaborates:
"We did fall in the beginning of the season but in our minds, we knew that if we got it together, we could be a really good team."
Getting it together meant the facing of conference powerhouses and having success against Cal, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State in the PAC 12 and who all made the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal took a few lumps but mostly prospered... getting to a record of 22-10 and earning a #2 seed in the PAC 12 conference tournament. They advanced to the finals before running into buzz-saw Oregon who Cut them down by 20...77-57.
The finish was good enough to send them dancing, though...as a #4 seed and, coincidentally...into the Lexington region for the third straight year. Not that they minded...The Cardinal beat Notre Dame and Texas in Rupp last year to reach the Final Four and knocked off the Irish two years ago in the Sweet Sixteen. The Trees may know Rupp better than Louisville and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw probably let out a war whoop and did and Irish jig in her stilleto heels when she saw "that other team" was not in her regional bracket.
Stanford, on the other hand, is in Lexington with a previous nemesis in Baylor, fellow PAC 12 member Oregon State and Louie's Cardinals. They'll attempt to move forward behind the strong shooting of guard McPhee, who is their leading scorer at 16.8 ppg. The Cards will also need to keep an eye on Alanna Smith, an Aussie import, who averages 13.7 a night. The 6'4" center has been tearing it up, though, in NCAA wins over Gonzaga and three-bombing FGCU in the first two rounds at the Maples Pavillion on the Stanford campus. She could pose the Cards front line some problems.
Probably what Louisville needs to do, most of all, is play Louisville basketball. A quick and successful early start. Combining the shooting of Asia Durr and Jasmine Jones, the inside play of Myisha Hines-Allen and Sam Fuehring and court guidance and leadership of Arica Carter. Stepping on the gas early and leaving the foe in the dust.
At this time of the season...as if you ever really can...there is no looking ahead. Whatever happens in Game 1 at Rupp happens. Either Baylor or Oregon State will be worthy opponents. The Cards' minds will be in, or on...if you will...the Trees and how to fell them.
|Sonya's Aunt is a Stanford fan. WE all
have those skeleton's in the closet.
Alanna Smith talks about The Trees:
"This time of year you have to deliver. We've prepared for this time of year all of the season. This is my third time doing it. You get a little experience behind you and when your time comes, you have to step up. I don't think it's just one person that is , or is going to be our 'go-to' star. That's the kind of team we have. We have people who will step up on a given night...it's what Coach VanDerveer calls a 'solo'. and, then another time, someone else might have that 'solo'."
Louisville, of course, knows all about people stepping up. Myisha Hines-Allen stepped up and jumped over tall buildings wearing a cape in the blowout win over Marquette. Sam Fuehring has had her share of domination games. And, then there's the volatile junior from Georgia.
Arguably the premier player in women's college basketball this season. Asia Durr accomplishes with relative ease in one night, one season what some players never get close to experiencing in a college hoops lifetime.
A coach, who remains anonymous due because of his personal wishes, told me earlier this season :
"Durr. What I wouldn't give to have an Asia Durr. She's where you start in building a program. What she can do. What she has done. What she'll do in the future. I'd trade a roster full of good scholarship players for her. The others visualize it. She realizes and accomplishes it. Makes everyone around her better and is all about team and joint success. Amazing. Jeff has had three like that. Some coaches never get one. I need that knack and that luck for finding them, getting to them first, getting them on campus and developing them. Whatever UofL is paying him, it's not enough. They should double it."
Louisville men's basketball well may be on the verge of a "new era" and seems to be on a "Mack Attack"...sneaking the candidate into the University Club with all the aplomb of a James Bond movie or impromptu celebrity appearance... but Louisville women's basketball is a proven, excellent program that proves it year-after-year and deserves, expects your support, love and attendance. Suck it up, get in the car and go do this Friday.
Yes, it's a game start time that has a few opting to hang at home and watch on the four-letter network instead of going. Probably some of the same people who vowed they would faithfully support the Cards if they got blessed with the Lexington region. Some who won't want to drive on an Interstate after midnight. That's exactly what ESPN wants you to do, stay home and be force-fed their sponsors' commercials. Shorter rest-room lines and less expensive food, right? Defy the logic and poor Cardinal placement and come to the game.
Get out of your chairs and come dance in the Sweet Sixteen. It's Lexington, for goodness sake, not Oklahoma City, Baton Rouge or Austin. An hour and 15 minutes down I-64.
I know. Most people won't. It was worth a try.
Survive and advance. Just survive somehow. Play ball. The second of three two-game tournaments is a day and an (rather late) evening away. Go Cards.
PAULIE PREDICTION: The Cards won't have an easy time controlling the boards like they did with Boise and Marquette, but, hey...the games and opponents get tougher the further a team advances. Louisville has benefited lately from "that one big quarter" in games of late and will probably need the same Friday night to get by a highly competitive Stanford squad. I look for Durr and Hines-Allen to remain hot and Sam to once again step up with the blue-collar effort and also be a key in Louisville getting a 7-8 point win. Let's say 66-59 Louisville wins.
MACK TO THE VILLE?
Money seems to be no object, according to Vince Tyra. Money matters, despite the long-standing tradition of Louisville basketball. A $100 million athletic budget? How much do you throw at Mack?
We'll send out a chimp-staffed investigation crew for further research. Another hit to the already-challenged CARDINAL COUPLE coffers. Hey, Vince, if money's no object....how about a little "somethin-somethin" with Cardinal Couple's name on it?
So, the coaching search to replace the highly respected interim coach David Padgett is (a) underway (b) has already been underway (c) has always been underway or (d) will precede an permanent athletic director and University President naming?
It's an objective question. I don't know if there is a correct answer. All I know is that there is no such intrigue about Cards WBB. Full speed ahead! The Madness of March is upon us.